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U.S. Owners of Baja Homes Protest Eviction

Times Staff Writer

A group of Americans who bought homes in Rosarito, Baja California, gathered outside the Mexican Consulate in San Diego on Wednesday morning to protest the actions of a land developer who they say built and sold them homes and is now ordering them off the land.

But Carlos Teran del Rio, developer of the community of Quinta del Mar, said he evicted some residents only after they refused to pay utilities and rent on the land.

Teran built the 200 houses and 100 condominiums near the beach beginning in 1976, and sold them primarily to Americans for prices ranging from $30,000 to $70,000. Some of the 40 protesters said Teran promised them a long-term lease on the property as part of the deal.

Raul Aldama, a Baja California lawyer representing the 25-member Quinta del Mar Homeowners Assn., said Teran promised the Americans a fideicomiso, a legal trust that allows foreigners to rent land for 30 years. This is a common way for homeowners to avoid the Mexican prohibition on selling coastal land to foreigners.

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When some homeowners demanded fideicomisos after recent rent increases of 40% to 50%--their contracts reportedly limited rent increases to 10% per year--Teran told them they had to move their homes, said Jack Green, a homeowner in the area.

“He told us we had to move our house off the land, and took our furniture and threw it into the street,” Green said.

Teran denied Wednesday that he evicted the people unfairly. Some of the homeowners have stopped paying rent on the land until a lawsuit to settle the matter is resolved, he said.

“I sent a letter to the Bolsheviks (his term for the homeowners) that they could go to the United States Consulate and we could discuss the problem,” he said. About five homeowners took him up on his offer and are still living in Quinta del Mar, he said.

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Teran said that only a handful of the more than 300 residents of the community are upset about the contract.

Lory G. Boyd, president of the homeowners group, said, “When we started demanding our fideicomisos, our furniture landed up in the middle of the bay. He’s a shyster, number one.”

Teran’s lawyer, Jesus Reyes of Tijuana, denied that Teran broke his contract with the homeowners when he increased rents. Much of the increase was to allow for the rate of inflation in Mexico, and to meet Mexico’s minimum-wage laws for employees who do maintenance work on the homes, both of which are permissible by the contract, Reyes said.

Aldama said the demonstration Wednesday outside the Mexican Consulate was intended to draw the attention of the federal government of Mexico. “Everything depends on the authorities,” he said.

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So far the case has been heard in the courts in Tijuana, and was heard on appeal in Mexicali and Hermosillo, Reyes said. Each time the case was decided in favor of Teran, Aldama said.

The protesters contend Teran buys off judges. “He owns a few judges and he pays off officials,” said homeowner Richard R. Burns. Betty Wunderlich, who has bought two homes in partnership with Burns, added, “Everyone who is a member of the homeowners association is harassed by police.”

Most of the homeowners are hopeful they will be able to return to Quinta del Mar.

“We loved it there,” said Myra Beisel, who bought a house in 1981. “We just assumed that the situation was like in the States, when you buy a house, it comes with the land.”

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